Kuman Pictures in The Hollywood Reporter

Meet the Malaysian Filmmakers Following In Roger Corman’s Indie Footsteps


12:10 AM PDT 6/7/2019 by Mathew Scott

Kuman Pictures’ TWO SISTERS

Kuman Pictures’ TWO SISTERS

B-grade films, profit share and a money-back guarantee to the audience are just some of the innovative strategies adopted by Kuman Pictures, a company inspired by Corman's seminal autobiography 'How I Made One Hundred Films in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime.'

Roger Corman’s influence on Hollywood's greatest filmmakers is well documented, with the maverick director having mentored the likes of Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Francis Ford Coppola and James Cameron to name just a few. But now, the man dubbed the "pope of pop cinema," has gained a new crop of enthusiastic disciples in Malaysia. 

Corman's seminal 1998 autobiography How I Made One Hundred Films in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime, which documented his filmmaking career, has, rather unexpectedly, become something of a bible for a Malaysian indie producer behind a production company that is shaking up the local industry.

“We have been inspired by Corman and his book,” says producer Elise Shick, before rattling off some of Corman's core filmmaking philosophies: “High concept, low cost, high entertainment. It’s a completely new concept for our film industry.” 

Shick and filmmaker-book publisher Amir Muhammad are the driving forces behind the newly formed and innovative Malaysian production company Kuman Pictures. Launched near the end of 2018, the production house's name is a play on Corman’s as well as the Malay word for “germ" (a nod to viral content).

Hewing close to Corman's indie filmmaking blueprint, Kuman has developed a unique profit-share arrangement that offers 10 percent of the film’s general income — box office, international sales, VOD, TV, festival screening fees — to be shared according to prorated basis for five years. In an industry that produces around 80 films per year, few of which have traditionally turned a profit outside a few annual blockbusters, Kuman's profit share scheme would be a boon to local film industry workers.  

“We pay royalties to all our cast and crew, even if the film flops,” explains Shick, who also counts Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions as an inspiration.

“Amir wanted to adapt the royalty system from [book publishing] into the film industry,” Shick says. “In Malaysia you cannot make a living acting full-time. Acting is always a side job in Malaysia. We want to improve the industry. We also want to encourage the Malaysian audience to support local films, which is something that doesn’t really happen at the moment."

She adds: “You pay the same ticket price to see a Hollywood blockbuster so that is what people choose. So if you see one of our films and you don’t like it, we give you your money back … but only on opening day.”

Up against Hollywood tentpoles as well as movies from China and India that appeal to sizable Chinese and Indian diaspora in Malaysia, Shick and her partner see some potential in exploiting the current lack of original Malay films from streamers. “Our royalty system runs for five years and comes not just from box office but overseas sales and from [streamers],” Shick says. “[Streamers] are skirting around Malaysian films at the moment. [Our films], perhaps the budget is too low for them. But we are just starting and we have hope. This is just the beginning.”

True to the Corman template, the first production from Kuman is the James Lee-directed horror Two Sisters, made for approximately $72,000 (300,000 ringgit). The film tells the tale of a haunted house that reveals some dark family secrets.

Two Sisters was released in Malaysia on April 18, but struggled in the face of competition from Avengers: Endgame. “We’re a bit bitter about this — what hope did we have?” Shick says of going up against a Hollywood event movie. “It’s a huge battle for local films to even get in to a cinema, but there’s not much you can do at the moment,” she said. 

But Two Sisters did create a stir on the festival circuit, and picked up a best actress award nomination for its lead Emily Lim Pey Chi at the Malaysia Film Awards, where it also won the award for best score. It also had an international premiere at the 21st Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy, at the end of April. 

Not to be deterred, Kuman currently has two more horror films in production, with the plan to sell them as a package with Two Sisters by mid-2020.  


Kuman Pictures Announced Its Launch in September 2018

Kuman Pictures Sdn Bhd is a new Malaysian film company that was launched to the media on 20 September 2018. It will focus on only low-budget (average about RM500,000) thriller and horror films for cinema release.

 

 Founder

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 The founder of the company is Amir Muhammad who had previously directed several documentaries and co-directed a cinema feature SUSUK (2008). In the past decade he has been more active as a book publisher and is the managing director of Buku Fixi, which has published over 200 books in Malay and English.

 

Creative Vision

We want to work with strong, innovative directors and we give them creative freedom as long as they can work with the budget! We deliberately choose horror and thriller as we believe there are some interesting ways in which different types of stories can be told in these popular formats.

 

Royalties

 Kuman Pictures is the only film company in Malaysia that will pay royalties to all the cast and crew on annual basis. The royalties will come from any income generated by the movie: in the cinema or other platforms later. This is the same royalty system for authors in the publishing company. We feel that whatever earnings we make should be shared by the people who made the movie possible.

First Three Films

 The first three films under Kuman Pictures are:

TWO SISTERS (Mandarin) directed by James Lee

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This is about the repercussions of a tragic family secret; who is the ghost in the red cheongsam who haunts the sisters?

James Lee is one of the most prolific Malaysian filmmakers. His previous works include HISTERIA, TOLONG! AWEK AKU PONTIANAK, PETALING STREET WARRIORS, CLAYPOT CURRY KILLERS for mainstream release and also many others like THE BEAUTIFUL WASHING MACHINE and CALL IF YOU NEED ME for arthouse release and international film festivals.

 

ROH (Malay) directed by Emir Ezwan

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Set in the unspecified past during wartime, a family is spooked by the arrival of a mysterious and sinister young guest; who in the family will survive?

Emir Ezwan has directed numerous commercials and also done VFX for feature films. His short film RM10 (2016) won several awards internationally. ROH is his first feature.

 

IRUL - GHOST HOTEL  (Tamil) directed by MS Prem Nath

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To be shot mainly in Penang’s Crag Hotel, this is a found-footage film about the search for a missing person.

MS Prem Nath was previously in cinemas as one of the directors of RISE! INI KALILAH. His first two films before that were in the horror genre.

 All three films are planned for 2019 cinema release.

 

 

Languages

 Our first three films are in Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. We are also open to other languages spoken in Malaysia, because we feel our main “language” is the genre (horror/thriller).

 

 

Future Plans

At the moment our priority is completing and releasing our first three films.

TWO SISTERS slated for early 2019 and the other two slated for second half of 2019.

 We are also developing a few other projects but these are still in the script/ideation stages.

 

GALLERY

Contact details:

kumanpictures@gmail.com






Press Conference of Kuman Pictures's launch to be held on the 20th of September 2018

Kuman Pictures will organize a press conference to be held on the above-mentioned date to announce its official launch. All press and media are welcome to attend.
Kindly RSVP by emailing to elise.kumanpictures@gmail.com by the 10th of September 2018.

Date: 20th of September 2018
Time: 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Venue: Platinum Movie Suites, mmCineplexes
            Level 2, eCurve, 2A, Jalan PJU 7/3, Mutiara Damansara, 47800 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Agenda

10:30 a.m. Registration

11:00 a.m.  Speech by Amir Muhammad the Managing Director of Kuman Pictures, followed by film directors James Lee, Prem Nath, and Emir Ezwan.

11:30 a.m.  Q&A and photography session.

12:00 p.m.  Lunch

1:00 p.m.    Closing of Press Conference

Hereby we extend our cordial wish to have your involvement in this Press Conference.

Contact details:

Amir Muhammad (Managing Director)
kumanpictures@gmail.com
+60112311584

Elise Shick (Producer)
elise.kumanpictures@gmail.com
+60177820933